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Light the Lights!  Buffett and Gates Prepare to Answer Students' Questions at Columbia

Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and CNBC's Becky Quick tour the Columbia University campus before today's Town Hall Event: "Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: Keeping America Great" at Columbia University's Business school.
David Goldman
Warren Buffett, Bill Gates and CNBC's Becky Quick tour the Columbia University campus before today's Town Hall Event: "Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: Keeping America Great" at Columbia University's Business school.

Just over one hour from now, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates will appear before roughly 700 Columbia Business School students to answers questions from the "next generation" of the world's business leaders.

Buffett often meets with college students in Omaha, but today's event is different and has a much higher profile.

CNBC cameras are here to record the session for a one-hour special "Town Hall Event" airing tonight on CNBC at 9p ET.

I will be blogging here on CNBC.com's Warren Buffett Watch with highlights, starting around 12:45p ET.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffett
David Goldman
Bill Gates, Warren Buffett

Right now, I'm sitting at a folding table near the back of the brightly-lit Roone Arledge Auditorium in Columbia's Lerner Hall on Broadway in uptown Manhattan.

Near the front of the auditorium, there are two black chairs waiting for Buffett and Gates, who did a walking tour of the campus earlier this morning.

Plain metal and plastic chairs are lined up both in front of, and behind, the stage, for the audience of students that will soon be "loaded in," the phrase used by the dozen or so production types who are scurrying around and getting ready.

There are two cameras about halfway back from the stage and another two cameras behind the stage. Rock music is being piped into the hall.

Senior Executive Producer Mary Duffy has been seemingly everywhere with a headset glued to her ear, making sure all is going to plan and resolving last-minute problems and questions.

"VIP guests," including members of Columbia's faculty will be sitting in an upstairs balcony.

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates: Keeping America Great, a 90-minute CNBC Town Hall Event hosted by Becky Quick, airs tonight (Thursday) on CNBC television at 9p and 12:30a ET.

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